Only a handful of countries have made rocket launches into space – Iran, the United States, China, the Soviet Union, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and Israel. So far, only three have managed to send humans into space – the Soviet Union, the United States and China. The past few years, Iran has made it publicly known that they plan to add their country to the list of human launchers, and it seems they may be a few steps closer after successfully launching a monkey this week.
Iran made its first step into space technology back in 2005 after launching a satellite into space aboard a Russian rocket. It was at that time that Iran first expressed its concerns over having restrictions imposed on them by Western nations with more developed space programs.
“We have to move quickly and achieve our goals in space otherwise we will face political, economic and security threats,” Iranian space official Mohammad Reza Movaseghinia told AP.
Indeed, they have moved quickly. They first unveiled their space center in early 2008, just three years after launching the satellite. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declared the milestone a “troubling development.”
“The kinds of technologies and capabilities that are needed in order to launch a space vehicle for orbit are the same kinds of capabilities and technologies that one would employ for a long-range ballistic missile,” McCormak had said.
But despite concern from U.S. officials, Iran pressed forward. In early 2010, they announced that they had successfully launched a research rocket carrying a mouse, two turtles and worms into space. Then earlier this week, Iran’s Press TV announced the country’s launch of a monkey in an “indigenous bio-capsule” called Pishgam (Farsi for ‘Pioneer’). Pishgam reportedly reached an altitude of more than 75 miles and a successful return, which makes the mission a success.
Iranian officials have called their successful launch a “prelude to sending humans into space.” And according to Hamid Fazeli, head of Iran’s space agency, their launch of humans should only be another five to eight years away.